PML-N ‘inviting’ military to derail democracy: PPP

ISLAMABAD: While supporting his companion Farhatullah Babar’s statement in the Senate a day earlier that all the institutions must stay within their limits, Leader of the Opposition in Upper House Senator Aitzaz Ahsan on Thursday said that those attacking the superior judiciary in speeches and rallies were in fact creating the space for a dictator to overthrow the democratic setup.

During his farewell address, Aitzaz said that the PML-N refused to accept the Supreme Court verdict in Panama Papers case on the pretext that it was issued on the basis of merely an iqama, but accepted the court judgment in Hudaibiya Papers Mills appeal because it favoured them. In what he himself described as a ‘heartfelt speech’, Ahsan said that the judiciary seemed to be dealing with its critics too softly.

Aitzaz said Babar was right to say that both judiciary and forces should remain within their domains but parliamentarians should also stay within their limits and do not provide space for others to intervene. He regretted that the ruling party leaders were regularly carrying out rallies and criticising judiciary, which in turn, he warned, may invite some non-political forces to derail the political setup.

“This army is our army,” he insisted, before criticising the PML-N and its allies for insisting that the army was interfering in state business. “They say that the judiciary’s verdicts are penned somewhere else,” he continued. “But where are they [verdicts] written when it is your own government in power?” he asked.

“It is true that each institution must operate within its limits … and that applies to us (parliament) as well,” he said, and pointed out that when the judiciary ruled against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, he was told by the PML-N to ‘obey’ the Supreme Court orders and vacate his seat. “However, when the SC ruled against the Sharifs, rallies were taken out and people were made to chant slogans against the verdict,” he regretted.

Aitzaz recalled that the Supreme Court, despite a perceived risk to the historical Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, had allowed the Punjab government to continue developing the Orange Line Metro Train project. “Yet the judiciary and the prosecutor were criticised when a bureaucrat, Ahad Cheema, was arrested,” he pointed out.

The PPP leader denounced the frequent criticism hurled at the judiciary during PML-N rallies, saying no one has ever given politicians the right to challenge judicial decisions. “See, if they can attack the chief justice of the apex court so openly, what accountability court judge would be going through? How much pressure would be on the court where the Sharifs are being tried for corruption?” he asked.

Aitzaz reminded the former prime minister and his children, who are undergoing trial in the accountability court, that they were neither placed on the exit control list nor arrested.

Terming the recent strike by Punjab bureaucracy over Ahad Cheema’s arrest a ‘treason’, the PPP leader said there were no strike calls even after the arrests of Salman Farooqui and other Sindh government officials. “The decision to call a strike was made in the office of the chief secretary,” he said. “This is treason, but it is allowed for Punjab. Yet people in Balochistan are picked up even if a leaf falls. Is Punjab special?” he questioned. “Punjab is not a province, it is a family.”

Other senators who delivered their farewell address included Shahi Syed, Hari Ram, Bonina Irfan, Naseema Ihsan, and Ahmad Hassan.

Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.